Born on January 20, 1922 in East St. Louis, Illinois; Samuel “Sam” Jethroe played most of his ten year Negro League baseball career (1938 – 1948) with the Cleveland Buckeyes. Nicknamed “The Jet”, the speedy switch hitting outfielder helped the Buckeyes win the 1945 Negro League World Series Championship and participated in three East-West Negro League All Star games.
In 1948, Jethroe became the fifth African-American player signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, after two stellar minor league seasons, he was sold to the Boston Braves. The Dodgers justified the sale saying they had enough outfielders, including a fast developing Duke Snider and Carl Furillo. With Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe already on the team, a reluctance to have four African-American players also contributed to Jethroe being sold.
Jethroe became the first African-American to play professional baseball for a Boston team. The city’s American League franchise, the Boston Red Sox, would remain all white for another nine years. After a slow start; he hit .273, led the league in stolen bases with 35, and was named the 1950 National League Rookie of the Year. In 1951, Jethroe hit .283 and again led the league in stolen bases with 35.
His success at the plate was tempered by his fielding deficiencies, he led the league in errors as an outfielder for three years, After Jethroe only hit .232 in 1952, another speedy African-American became the team’s center fielder the next season; Billy Bruton. Although he had a few good seasons in the minor leagues, Sam Jethroe only played two more Major Leagues games; 1954 with the Pittsburgh Pirates after he left the Braves.